Friday, June 29, 2012

Texas Republicans: Thinking is Bad?

I don't usually spend a lot of time reading the Democratic or Republican party platforms in states across the Great US of A, but the Texas Republican platform is getting a lot of attention this week.

The education plank in particular is inspiring a lot of critical thinking. That's because the plank calls for a ban on critical thinking in public school education.

Sometimes, politicians have
um, interesting educational ideas.  
Some updates coming through indicate this is all a mistake, that the Texas Republicans didn't actually want the ban on critical thinking on their platform. It got there by accident, according to Talking Points Memo.  I'm not sure how you accidentally do something like that, but these things do happen. And the fact that some people hate critical thinking is really worrisome.

Here's what the platform said:

"Knowledge-Based Education – We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority."

Maybe I'm misunderstanding it all here, but isn't critical thinking part of life? We don't go through life by rote, just doing exactly what we always have, because the situation always changes. Taken to its logical extreme, if I avoided critical thinking, I wouldn't put a coat on during a December cold wave because I didn't wear one in July. 

Why make a decision based on changing conditions?

I see the people who wrote this thing worry that critical thinking would challenge the students fixed beliefs.  In some cases, shouldn't some, but not all of people's fixed beliefs change? 

Again, taken to its logical, weird conclusion, a kid who believes in the Easter Bunny at age three should continue to do so throughout life? Our beliefs inevitably change when we're confronted with new evidence. Should students not be exposed to any new evidence about anything, anywhere?

I wonder if the Republicans who wrote this are conflating critical thinking with rebellion. Critical thinking to me means you examine what you believe, and if it makes sense, it reinforces, not diminishes your beliefs.

And if it doesn't make sense, you make some adjustments.

True, nobody wants kids demanding WHY???  to every simple instruction.  But to stay competitive in the world, don't we want people to think through things, to figure out how problems develop and how to fix them.

A sure path to failure is to say, "But that's the way we've always done things."

Or do we want a society that has everybody just working menial jobs?  Because anything that takes skill means whoever's doing the task has to think critically.

The Texas education platform isn't the only oddball educational ideae floating out there. Politicians are always offering up novel solutions to education shortcomings.

A doozy came out of New Hampshire recently. According to the Laconia Daily Sun, a state legislator named Bob Kingsbury said a relatively high crime rate in Laconia is because they've instituted kindergarten, which takes kids away from their mothers too soon. 

Kingsbury said the crime rate would further be reduced if gun ownership went up and schools offered boxing classes and organized boxing as a school sport.

Also, some private schools, especially those run by Christian fundamentalists, say evolution is a myth. They cite the Loch Ness Monster as "proof" that dinosaurs coexist with us, so therefore, there was no evolution. 

It all makes you want to go home and put on a dunce cap.

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